The question I’ve been asking myself for 30 years.
I am 47 years old. I still skate, and I will describe to you my skateboarding journey from its beginning in the mid 1980s. From the age of 15, I used to skate every day after school with a few friends. Then all day long at weekends. When I started work at 17, I had less time for skateboarding, but still skated as much as I could.
The early 90s was a boom time for mini ramps, and a few ramps had sprung up around where I lived. Our skate sessions consisted of a motorcycle journey out of town, 2-3 hours skating a mini, then a couple of beers back home. We made the most of our summers. We got quite good at riding transitions, lip tricks and airs. Injuries healed fast, much fun was had.
But we were growing up, and the responsibilities of life took up more time. I began to consider the older shredders from the 70s who would watch and occaisionally join in our mini ramp sessions, and how their numbers had dwindled. – Would that happen to me too? relationship, kids, no more skating? I couldn’t imagine a life without skateboarding.
Through the subtle pressure of my non-skating peers, a question began to nag at the back of my mind – am I too old to skateboard? I already knew guys that had forgone skating for a life of clubbing, fashion and drinking in town with leather brogues on their feet instead of skate shoes.
Is 25 too old?
In the late 90s it began to feel awkward. My best skate buddy had got hitched and had a kid, we barely skated anymore. Whenever I did get to skate, it was usually on my own, and I’d noticed that the younger generation of skaters now had a slightly different fashion sense, skinny boards, and a lot of technical flip tricks. Still a transition junkie, I was skating solo on ramps with my big wide board and outdated trousers. ‘Is this it?’ I thought to myself, ‘am I too old to skateboard now?’ I felt inadequate with my technical inability (I can kickflip, but impossibles are, well… impossible). Skating less, I lost a few of my old tricks, and felt like it was the end of the road.
30. 30 is too old, right?
In 2005, I moved to London for a few years, and I was aware of the amazing skate spots all over that great city. Romford, the classic original bowl (actually not a very smooth ride, but worth a visit) Kennington, Meanwhile gardens, Southbank. By the time I lived there, Bay 66 had opened under the westway. I was enchanted back into skating, just to get some great skatepark experience.
I got a new board, all skinny and poppy, no grab rails, no particular front or back end. I still had a few of my old tricks, and I began to skate again regularly. I was working as a freelancer, so I often had time during the week when most people were working to go skating. It made me happy, and I was less concerned about whether I fitted in, or whether I was too old. In fact, I began riding vert there, a preserve of the more mature skater. I met some guys my own age and older, still rocking the old Santa Cruz decks and big knee pads.
Surely 40 is too old to be skateboarding?
I moved back from London, got together with the love of my life, had a child and forgot about skating for a while. I still dreamed of riding transitions (literally, a recurring dream would be to ride the largest transitions imaginable, and create amazing McTwist variations. I would awake sweating and grinning.) I knew that this was the end of the road for me, because as everyone surely
knows, 40 is too old to be riding a skateboard.
The thing was that there was a very nice concrete mini at the end of my road. It would be silly to pass up the opportunity of skating a new skatepark just because I was an overweight, out of shape old guy with creaky knees. I took my 3 year old daughter to the park with her scooter, got on the ramp to show her a few of daddy’s skills and slammed, padless, onto the flat bottom.
No kid should have to witness their father scrape himself up from the floor and limp away, head hung low, feeling like an idiot who was, quite bluntly, too old to be skateboarding. I made a mental note in that moment that I was kidding myself if I thought I could carry on skating, especially when I had a responsibility to not selfishly hospitalise myself for my daughter’s sake. Freelance work doesn’t come knocking on the doors of the selfishly hospitalised. No, I was definitely now too old to be skateboarding.
No, 50 isn’t too old to be skateboarding
I’m now 47, and there has been a resurgence in the last 5 years or so of guys like me, who had previously hung up their boards (sometimes fetishistically on display on their living room walls) getting back into skating. Usually by way of taking their kids to one of the many new wondrously smooth, expertly designed skateparks that have recently sprung up all over the country. So beautiful are these places that no skater can fail to be moved to at least wonder ‘Could I still ollie up to that rail and boardslide it?’ or ‘I wonder if one of those kids would let me have a go at dropping into the big bowl?’ or even ‘I bet I could show these young ‘uns a thing or two’.
The lure of these places is so strong for skaters of my generation, it’s hardly surprising to see us out on the skatepark on the dawn patrol, before the scooters arrive, swapping stories of journeys through life and skateboarding. So here I am. Knocking on 50, fully padded up, helmet on, getting a few sessions in between the school run, a desk job and staying healthy.
How old is too old? Sure, I’m too probably too old to repeatedly attempt to kickflip the 5-set and push myself beyond my limits every time I skate, but we are skateboarders, and it’s up to us to define who skateboarders are and how they skate. We’re a community of misfits, a group of men, women, boys and girls of many nations who share the love of skating in all its forms.
I’m still skating just regularly enough to hang on to a few of my tricks, re-learn a few of my old ones, and be happy to carve and grind the beautiful transitions like I used to. I’m not too old to be skateboarding, I’m just too old to keep falling off.